Most of the common causes of an itchy throat or irritation at the back of your mouth aren’t serious. But the symptom itself can feel uncomfortable and disrupt your daily living. In addition, sometimes an itchy throat can be a sign of a health condition that’s more severe and needs treatment. Figuring out the causes of an itchy throat can put you on the right road to learning how to treat it.
If you don’t drink enough fluids, it can make you dehydrated. And that dehydration can create itchy sensations in your throat. Dehydration causes your mouth to make less saliva, leading to dryness and itching. It can also cause thickened mucus, which tickles your throat so you constantly want to clear it — and that can create a different type of itchiness. If this happens, keep in mind that caffeine and alcohol can both worsen dehydration. Water intake is vital to relieving an itchy throat if it’s happening due to dehydration.
Seasonal allergies such as hay fever can often trigger an itchy throat. In this case, the symptoms you feel in your throat also appear along with sneezing and a runny nose. Food allergies can also cause swelling and irritation in your throat. Your doctor can typically treat this type of allergy using antihistamines or steroid medications. Mild asthma, which is an immune system reaction, often also causes an itchy throat because of the coughing and wheezing that appear along with the condition.
Acid reflux, also called heartburn, happens when acid from your stomach enters your esophagus or the back of your throat and mouth. The acid can irritate these tissues and cause a burning or itching sensation, especially after you eat. If you frequently feel a burning sensation in your chest or have difficulty swallowing along with your itchy throat, talk to your healthcare provider about acid reflux to find out about treatment options.
The Common Cold
Many types of viruses can cause the common cold, which in turn is a frequent cause of an itchy throat. Many people find that an itchy feeling in their throat or tonsils is one of the first warnings they get that they’ve caught a cold. If your itchy throat is due to a cold, you’re likely to experience soreness in your throat as well. The common cold typically runs its course in about a week. If your cold symptoms don’t go away in that time, consider talking with a healthcare provider to find out whether you’ve picked up a secondary infection.
Your larynx, or “voice box,” sits near the top of your throat and contains the vocal cords that you use to speak. When these vocal cords become irritated or swollen, this is called laryngitis. Laryngitis typically happens due to a minor infection or from overusing your vocal cords. If your throat feels hoarse when you’re speaking, this may be laryngitis. This condition usually clears up within two weeks, but it can also become chronic or require medication.
Nasal congestion, whether it’s from allergies, environmental conditions or an infection, can often lead to a condition called post-nasal drip. This happens when mucus from your sinuses drips down into the back of your throat, especially while you’re lying down or sleeping. This can cause a constant tickle or itching, along with the feeling of needing to clear your throat. Fluids, humidifiers and nasal decongestants can all help relieve throat itching from post-nasal drip.
A sore, scratchy throat accompanied by a fever, swollen lymph nodes in your neck or a skin rash may indicate an illness that could be serious. You’ll want to visit your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms. Your provider will take a throat swab to do a culture. This is a lab test that can determine whether streptococcus — the bacteria that causes strep throat — is present. A strep throat infection can quickly spread to other parts of your body. Your doctor will give you antibiotics to stop symptoms and prevent further complications.
“Seasonal Allergies at a Glance,” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
“Common cold – Symptoms and causes,” Mayo Clinic
“Laryngitis – Symptoms and causes,” Mayo Clinic
“Treatments for post-nasal drip,” Harvard Health Publishing
“Strep throat – Symptoms and causes,” Mayo Clinic